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Amnesty: Record rise in executions

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The execution chamber in the Federal Prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, North America.
Amnesty International

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Close to 4,000 people were executed worldwide in 2004, more than at nearly any other time in the last 25 years, according to human rights organization Amnesty International.

The number of new death sentences imposed by countries also hit its highest level in 10 years, it said.

"This is an alarming rise in executions and the figures uncovered from China are genuinely frightening," Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen told Reuters news agency.

China, which recently pledged to tighten the terms under which people can be executed, put to death more people than any other country in the world.

Amnesty, which based its analysis on public reports, said that China executed at least 3400 people last year, but cautioned the total figures are "only minimum figures; the true figures are certainly higher."

"In March 2004 a delegate at the National People's Congress said that 'nearly 10,000' people are executed per year in China," Amnesty said.

The analysis found that 25 countries executed their citizens in 2004, while 7,395 people were sentenced to death in 64 countries.

The United States, which is one of the last Western nations to impose the death penalty, executed 59 people during the year, placing it fourth on Amnesty's table of executions.

Still, the number of people executed in the U.S. fell from 64 previously. Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the use of the death penalty against child offenders, for those who are under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

Iran executed 159 people, placing it second, while Vietnam executed 64 people in 2004.

"As in previous years, the vast majority of executions worldwide were carried out in a tiny handful of countries. In 2004, 97 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the USA," Amnesty said.

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